When did government prohibition ever work?

PROHIBITION ENDState governments are getting increasingly desperate to seem like they are responding to a populist perception of increasing violence in pubs and clubs. The O’Farrell government in New South Wales has been talking tough on tackling random assaults that are happening in Sydney’s notorious Kings Cross. Now Hospitality Minister George Souris is introducing tiers of restrictions on selected businesses:

Mr Souris has released the latest violent venues list, which is again topped by the Ivy nightclub on George Street, which recorded 26 assaults in the past year.

As such Ivy remains the only licensed venue in the state to be hit with level one licensing restrictions for venues with more than 19 violent incidents in a year.

This means it must abide by conditions including a 2am lockout and bans on shots and premixed drinks over 5 per cent alcohol after midnight.

Though alcohol has not been banned outright, these measures are the state trying to force social change from the top down. This never works. Government crackdowns look great in the news but evaluations down the track are rare.

Prohibition of the 1920-30s in the US is the ultimate example of government failing to change the behaviour of its constituents through state control. This excellent essay from the Cato Institute illustrates how noble ideas of protecting people from their worst nature through government control is ultimately unsuccessful:

National prohibition of alcohol…was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts…

The lessons of Prohibition remain important today. They apply not only to the debate over the war on drugs but also to the mounting efforts to drastically reduce access to alcohol and tobacco and to such issues as censorship and bans on insider trading, abortion, and gambling.


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